Nothing in the world is certain, but life certainly is precious. At first our three new ducks stayed close by their duck house, and did not venture very far into the upper field, but as the days turned to weeks, and they grew more familiar with their surroundings, we would find them waddling farther and farther across the field. Finally they followed the chickens into the woods and headed down towards the creek.
Every evening they would return, the largest of the three always in the lead, and settle down in their house, and I would latch the door safely behind them, until one evening when the middle sized duck did not return. I waited until well after dark to latch the door, hoping that he would come back home, but he did not. The next day I still hoped to see him waddling up out of the woods, but he was nowhere to be seen. I even hesitated to let the other two ducks out, but they seemed impatient to head off into the day, so I unlatched the door and off they waddled.
The next evening only one duck returned at dusk. Again I waited to latch the door, hoping for the others to return, but my hopes were hopeless. The chickens all settled into coop, jostling for the best perch. The pigeons tucked themselves into the top of their gazebo palace, and it was well after dark when I walked out into the field to latch the duck house behind the last of my three feathered waddlers. I fell asleep, saddened with the knowledge that I had failed to keep my ducks in a row.
The next morning I cautiously opened the duck house door. My little survivor waddled out into the day, gently quacking. Several of this spring’s chickens pecked and scratched at the grass close by. The little duck waddled over to join them, shaking his beak back and forth across the ground as only ducks do. I kept a close eye on him all day, and all day he stayed close to his house, joining the chickens when they would stop by, but not hurrying off with them when they dashed away. Several times I thought that I had lost sight of him, only to realize that he had hunkered down in front of the rabbit hutches, looking like a dried branch that had fallen from a tree.
I went out to check on him several times during the day and every time I suggested that he stick close to home and not wander off. I began to call him Stick, as much after the branches on the ground, as my hope that he would stay close by, and close by he thankfully stayed.
And then the lady who gave us the ducks called. She wanted me to know that she had new hatchlings looking for a home, and of course I told her “yes”. When I picked up the box of nine diminutive black ducklings, I told her the sad tale of Stick’s companions. She reminded me that ducks are quite edible.
So I brought the hatchlings home and set them up inside an enclosure out by the goats. I sat down on a log that I placed beside them and I watched as Stick watched them curiously. Whenever a dog or chicken would wander by, he protectively quacked, as if to say “These are my kin”.
I watched as the newcomers scurried about their new home and then finally settled down inside a cardboard box that I placed inside Stick’s house. Stick squatted down close by the box. A dark brown chicken pecked the ground by my feet. A bright red cardinal flew down and sat on the duck house fence. One of my pure white pigeons walked across the bright green grass toward me, ruffled her feathers, and flew back to her mate in the coop.
Perhaps Stick will teach his duckling kin to stay close by the upper field, and swim safely in the ponds we create, and not wander off into the wilds of the creek. I wonder how many creek creatures know that ducks are edible. I imagine that it is quite a few.